New Delhi: In a fresh twist in the vote of confidence controversy faced by the PV Narasimha Rao government in 1993, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) MPs allegedly bribed to vote in favour of the government told a tax tribunal here that the Congress ‘voluntarily donated’ the money to their party.

The Income Tax Appelate Tribunal gave relief to all the JMM MPs that they do not have to pay tax ‘on donations’ received from the Congress for the 1993 confidence vote, according to the case documents made available on Monday.

The counsel of Simon Marandi did not raise any new argument in the hearing earlier this month, and simply submitted that the arguments raised in the case of JMM chief Shibu Soren may be considered in his case also.

Counsel for Suraj Mandal also contended likewise.

During the course of arguments, Mandal's counsel informed the tribunal's Judicial Member R.P. Tolani that it is a known fact that different parties many a time come close, form alliance, agree to cooperate with each other in and outside the Parliament.

"JMM and Congress had agreed to cooperate with each other. The Congress party approached the JMM party to help it in the national interest and not to vote against the Narasimha Rao government in the parliament," said the counsel.

He further submitted that JMM thought that voting out Congress party at that critical juncture when the country was facing economic and public unrest in Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and North East could be disastrous for the country and in the national interest, and for stability, national security and economic reforms, agreed to help the Congress party.

He submitted that Congress party itself voluntary donated the amount to JMM for the cause espoused by the party and for the welfare of the people of Jharkhand. This amount was deposited in the bank accounts in the name of JMM officials.

It was also submitted that the amount donated by the Congress to the JMM cannot at all be treated a bribe to the assesse MPs, and it is wrong to suspect or allege that there was any conspiracy of voting for bribe.

The tribunal was hearing the JMM MP's appeal against paying income tax on the interest accrued on donations.

The MPs admitted that the money was paid to them to save the Narasimha Rao government in 1993.

In July 1993, four JMM MPs along with seven members of a breakaway faction of the Janata Dal (A) were allegedly paid at least Rs.8.7 crore to ensure the survival of the government.

The Supreme Court in 1998 held that the MPs who cast their votes accordingly committed no crime that the legal system can act on.

(Agencies)